Computer technology is everywhere – It’s hard to think of a business that doesn’t depend on computers in some way. Most businesses are aware that their ability to compete depends on how well, and how consistently they can provide the services or products they offer.  And most are aware that technology, and particularly computers, are an essential part of that strategy.

Here are some of the things you should consider when creating your strategy:

  • How do you use information? Where is it gathered, stored and used? Are you keeping multiple copies of the same information in different places? What information should you be tracking that you aren’t? Is your information system fully integrated, or are you copying things from one place to another, such as customers in sales and customers in accounting and A/R? Can everyone in your business immediately find out what they need to know, when they need it?
  • How critical is your information, and what is your recovery plan in case of disaster?  Do you have adequate backups, including an off site backup of your data and everything necessary to get your computer system working again? How long would it take you to recover from a catastrophe such as your computer being stolen or destroyed? What happens if your internet connection goes down? How long can you afford to be down, and what is the actual cost per hour or per day?  If you have a file server, is it designed not to fail? This could include duplicate hard drives (Mirrored Drives), redundant power supplies, and a UPS, or Battery backup. Even small offices, such as doctors and dentists with 1 or 2 computers can be almost shut down if they can’t get to appointment schedules and billing history. Do you have adequate protection against viruses and hackers? Is there adequate documentation to rebuild your computers?  Is critical information stored on laptops or palm pilots, or at home?
  • Are you taking full advantage of innovations in technology? Do you know what is possible, and how it might apply to your business? Are there technologies that, if used, would give you or your competitors’ advantage in the marketplace? Can you access your email and calendar from anywhere? Can you work from home if appropriate? If you have multiple locations, are they networked? Does your use of technology show your customers that you are a leader in your field?
  • How well integrated are you with the outside world? Can you fax to and from your computer? Are you sending faxes, or sending email attachments? Are there areas where you could speed up or improve communication with vendors, investors, and customers? Does information flow automatically where it should?
  • Do you have policies in place about the use of technology in your company? Do you have a company policy on email and internet use? If you have an interactive web site, does it have a privacy policy, as required by law? Do you have policies about preventing viruses, such as bringing work from home on floppies, and downloading software from the internet?

Are you getting the best bang for your buck? A lot of time and thought has gone into the issues of total cost of ownership, and return on investment for computers.  Do you have standards for hardware and software that minimize the cost of maintaining and upgrading your computers? Are you using Imaging to back up workstations, so that you can restore an image of your hard drive onto a new computer within a few minutes, instead of taking hours to set up a new or replacement computer? Do you have documentation that will save you time and money when troubleshooting or repairing your computer network?

Do you have a plan in place for preventative maintenance? Is someone updating your computers as bug and security fixes are announced? Do you clean the dust out of your computers regularly? Does someone check for software updates on programs you use and evaluate their usefulness? Are you actually checking your backups by restoring a file every few months? Do you check to see that your server has enough hard drive space, and is still performing adequately?

How do you rate?  Do you have a plan in place? All of this takes time and thought, and we all have to weigh the best uses for our energies. Just like it may not pay you to become a tax expert or a lawyer, it may not pay for you to try to be your own IT expert. But it does pay to have a technology strategy in place that makes your business look and act like an expert. Like many things in life, the biggest risk is in the areas that you don’t know, and don’t know that you don’t know.  In the same way you go to your CPA for advice on the best tax and financial strategies, you might consider engaging a “Technology Consultant” to plan and implement your Information Technology strategy.

By: Tim Torian, Torian Group, Inc.